I don’t want to make light of any act of violence or threatened violence against a public official, but there was something about Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s claim this morning that his campaign office in downtown Richmond had been shot at that seemed off. First, there were no local news reports of the incident, which he said happened this week. Second, the first news report of any kind about the incident seems to have been a Foxnews.com “exclusive” published just before Cantor spoke. Third, the timing of Cantor’s revelation seemed curious given what a plastering Republicans have been getting over the last 24 hours for their role in inciting isolated acts of vandalism and threats against Democrats.
As I say, this is not the sort of thing to be taken lightly or mocked, but take a look at the press release we just got in from the Richmond Police Department about this incident (the italics are mine):
The Richmond Police Department is investigating an act of vandalism at the Reagan Building, 25 E. Main St., Richmond, Virginia. A first floor window was struck by a bullet at approximately 1 a.m. on Tuesday, March 23. The building, which has several tenants including an office used by Congressman Eric Cantor, was unoccupied at the time.
A Richmond Police detective was assigned to the case. A preliminary investigation shows that a bullet was fired into the air and struck the window in a downward direction, landing on the floor about a foot from the window. The round struck with enough force to break the windowpane but did not penetrate the window blinds. There was no other damage to the room, which is used occasionally for meetings by the congressman.
We’ve posted the police incident report here.
So the police have determined that someone fired a shot into the air in downtown Richmond that came down and struck the window of a first floor office in the same building Cantor has a campaign office. To emphasize, unless someone was trying to hit Cantor’s office with a bank shot off a cloud, neither Cantor nor the building were the target of this bullet.
The bullet did break the window and set off the building’s alarm system but wasn’t able to make it past the blinds. The police say Cantor sometimes uses the room where the bullet was found. We know that Cantor has used a first floor conference room in the small building for meetings in the past. We also know that Republican campaigns and campaign consultants, including Bolling For Lt Governor, Cantor for Congress, Creative Direct LLC, LaCivita Consulting LLC and Marcus & Allen LLC, also work from that building.
Now look, if I found a bullet on the floor in my office, I’d be alarmed, too. But I’m pretty sure, given what the police determined, that I would not go on national TV and say, as Cantor did: “Just recently, I have been directly threatened. A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week.” That strikes me as a much more alarming sounding phrasing than what police say actually happened, especially since Cantor’s point was to equate his case with the threats and vandalism against Democratic lawmakers. Am I being uncharitable here?
I should also note that Cantor says he’s gotten other threats, separate and apart from this incident.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.